THE JOHNS HOPKINS LISTENING POST PROJECT is monitoring in a systematic and timely way what is happening to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. To do so, the project has partnered with nonprofit umbrella organizations in several major nonprofit fields and with over 1,100 nonprofit organizations across the country representing diverse fields of nonprofit action.
These organizations participate in regular surveys, or “Soundings,” through which they report on the key trends and developments currently affecting them, and express their opinions on topics of importance to the sector. Soundings also explore promising ways organizations are tackling these challenges. The project summarizes the resulting insights in a series of Communiqués, highlights innovative organizations as “Featured Listening Posts,” and organizes webinars designed to dig deeper into our survey findings.
What are Listening Posts? They are the nonprofit organizations who respond to Soundings. This name reflects the fact that these organizations will serve as the project’s “ears” across the nation. The Listening Posts work in one of four major fields of nonprofit activity:
Family, children, and youth services
Elderly housing and services
Community and economic development
Arts and culture
In addition to representing diverse fields of nonprofit action, Listening Posts include organizations of all sizes—from small, neighborhood-based groups, to large multi-state ones—and from all regions of the country. Currently, there are about 1,100 Listening Posts participating in the project. Many organizations find participation to be quite valuable, as evinced by their testimonials.
What is a Sounding? Reflecting a commitment to providing quick information on pressing issues, project surveys are referred to as “Soundings.” Possible Sounding topics are identified by the project Steering Committee, the Center research staff, and the Listening Post organizations themselves. The Steering Committee then selects a topic for each particular Sounding based on its consideration of which issues are especially pressing and important.
What topics have the Soundings covered? The Listening Post project Soundings have examined a wide range of important topics for nonprofits, including:
Recession effects on nonprofit jobs
Innovation and performance measurement
Health benefits and pensions
Involvement in advocacy and lobbying
Governance and accountability
How are Listening Posts selected? There are two sets of Listening Post organizations. The first set has been recruited by the project partners. The second set is a random sample of similar organizations drawn by the Center from a comprehensive list of 990 filers to ensure that Soundings capture the full range of nonprofit trends and developments.
What we’re accomplishing. Through this initiative we are:
- Improving the ability of nonprofit managers to understand and cope with the changes affecting their organizations.
- Speeding the diffusion of innovations in the nonprofit field, thereby improving the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.
- Better equipping management consultants and technical assistance providers to serve their nonprofit clients.
- Creating more practice-relevant teaching materials in the nonprofit field.
- Providing a more systematic basis for public policy toward the nonprofit sector and alerting policymakers to the consequences of their actions for the nation’s nonprofit organizations.
- Increasing public and media awareness of the challenges confronting the nonprofit sector and of the sector’s efforts to respond.